What Paint Colors to combine and Why…

Three simple Ways of Choosing the Right Paint Colors Combinations

Some artists love to work from intuition. When in the art store our eyes move over these rows of beautiful sparkling colors. Sometimes we can hardly make a choice about which paint colors to buy. So we end up with a random palette of tubes of paint. This is also reflected in our paintings. How do we pick the right color combinations? I have a great CHEAT SHEET that is very insightful.

A few color basics explained

Color is a powerful tool to create an atmosphere. It might express how we feel or how we want our painting to feel. Color can become a kind of struggle when we fight to pick the right colors to work together. What we are looking for is a harmony of color. When we pick the right colors we will achieve harmony.

The art of mixing the right paint mixtures

Mixing habits heavily influence the outcome of our paint mixing. A common mistake is to mix too many colors. This will produce ‘muddy’ mixtures. Handling our palette in a random way can cause chaos between our mixtures and we can get lost. Organizing your mixing procedure, organizing your tools, and organizing your palette are great ways to keep oversight.

The basic knowledge of (paint) colors

Colors are related to each other and are organized in a circle. When we start mixing the primary colors red, yellow, and blue these mixtures produce the secondary colors. When we start mixing the secondary colors, purple, yellow-green, and orange, we get the tertiary colors. This would give us a color circle as you see here in the image. I call them ‘color families’.


Why are color families different when we mix them with paint?

There is always a difference between theory and practice. In practice, we could use a number of different pigments within a color family. If I would want to mix an orange out of red and yellow paint I have a choice out of a wide variety of red or paint pigments. The same goes for the yellow pigments. And this is exactly the point where the experience of the painter comes in. We need to know which red and yellow pigments result in the orange mix we are looking for. This is a matter of practice. Hours of paint mixing will bring the solutions.

What Colors do we combine?

Using colors works the same as playing a melody on an instrument. When the musician uses the right combination of tones the melody will be harmonic. The notes fit together well. There are a number of music tonal combinations known as the ‘key’ in which the melody is played. For non-musicians: the musician only uses specific notes and consequently skips some others. Which ones he uses or skips is depending on the ‘key’.

The same goes for color combinations. The painter uses only specific colors once a choice in ‘key’ is made. Other colors are then skipped, avoided, or used sparingly. Using a bit of color in a mixture without visible proof could be enough to create very subtle paint mixtures. Below please find the Cheat Sheet that gives you 3 different ‘color keys’.

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